Diary of a Marriage: Do I Rely On My Husband—or Completely Depend On Him?

When the husband’s away, the wife will: oversleep, get pulled over, forget to eat, convince their priest she’s having an affair, and thoroughly fail at life.

Diary of a Marriage: Do I Rely On My Husband—or Completely Depend On Him?


Last Friday morning, I was driving down I-95, steering with a knee while simultaneously gulping coffee and putting on mascara, when I saw the flashing lights behind me. I was so tired that the bolt of panic and stomach-dropping dread I usually feel whenever I see a cop’s lights in my rearview—even when they’re not on for me—barely even registered. I’d stayed up late the night before doing important things like watching seven episodes of Real Housewives. It took all my energy to stuff the makeup back into my bag so he wouldn’t suspect me of dangerously multitasking, and to pull out a bag of cough drops and scatter some tissues around so that maybe he’d take pity on my poor sick, speeding soul.

I wanted to explain to him the real reason I was running late and looking generally unkempt, but I was too tired, and the truth would have seemed too pathetic: My husband was away for the night, and I apparently lose all ability to take care of myself like an adult human when he’s not around.

It wasn’t until I got to work that I realized I’d forgotten to bring anything to eat. I’d also forgotten to charge my phone, and it died shortly thereafter. And I had a nagging feeling all day that I’d forgotten to lock the front door.

That afternoon, I had a facial date with a friend, who happens to be a good-looking gay male. J. was still away at his tennis tournament, so we went out for a beer afterwards. We gabbed and laughed and split a second beer and then turned to leave, whereupon we ran smack into the lovely priest who married J. and I, who greeted us with a concerned look in my direction signaling that he now clearly thought I was having an affair. Fabulous.

J. called me shortly after my holy run-in to tell me that the tennis team he coaches (they were at an out-of-town tournament) had lost; he was on his way home. He’d had a great time, and even won a food challenge at some Italian restaurant for consuming a massive brick of lasagna in one sitting. They even gave him a certificate! Signed by a witness! His star was shining bright. How was I doing, he asked. I weighed my words.

“Oh, you know… fine …well, I got pulled over by a cop on 95 this morning. So that freaked me out and I never actually finished putting on my mascara so I think I sort of looked like the guy from A Clockwork Orange all day. I forgot to pack my lunch too, and I ate something weird for lunch and I feel kind of gross. Oh, and Father Eckert thinks I’m cheating on you. But, you know, otherwise … things are good ….”

It’s not supposed to happen like this. The men are supposed to be the imbeciles, leaving their wives to come home to smoking piles of rubble and laundry as they blithely watch ESPN with a hand down their pants. But the last time I went away for a girls’ weekend, I returned home to fresh sheets on the bed; all the laundry washed, folded and put away; and rug marks. Rug marks. J came home to an unmade bed, a front door that I think I might have accidentally left unlocked all day, and a microwave dirty from my teenage-boy meal I’d made the previous night: two cold tortillas filled with Kraft shredded cheese heated in the microwave.

My whole life, I’ve wanted independence. First from my parents, then from small-town suburbia, and then even from my husband. But now that we’ve settled into our roles—J. clearly being the more responsible of the two of us—have I lost it all? We’re supposed to rely on our spouses to some degree, but has my reliance become dependence?

I wondered if we needed to redefine our roles. Was I was allowing J. to edge too far into concerned-parent mode—Remember to eat your lunch! Don’t forget to bring an extra bottle of water for yoga class!—or was this normal, helpful-husband stuff?

My mom gave us a book before we got married that we lied about reading. It was all about this concept of ‘love languages.’ If your mother gave this book to you to read, too, here’s a quick summary:  Everyone has a different way of expressing love. These are called ‘love languages.’ There are five main ones: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, and physical touch. It says that marriage really comes down to figuring out which love language each of you speaks.

J.’s love language, my mom told me in the first years of our marriage when I’d call her to complain that J. would not let me lift a finger around the house, was service. (Yeah, it sounds nice, but after a while you start to feel helpless, like that guy in Misery.) Mine is words of affirmation. So this is our marriage in a nutshell: J. bustles around the kitchen, serves me dinner, clears away my plate and runs the dishwasher while I sit on the couch and tell him how wonderful he is. This can’t be healthy, I think.

Even now, I have trouble deciding where the line is between his service love language and my wanting the chance to just take care of myself, dammit, so that when he’s not there, I don’t crumble into some woman-child who doesn’t know how to fold a fitted sheet or pack herself a sandwich.

It’s late now as I sit in bed writing this. J.’s asleep next to me. I just crawled out of bed to run downstairs to stick a little love note in his work bag and I caught a glimpse of a brown paper lunch bag, right by the door, which I know he’s filled with some of my favorite snacks. I smile. His love language might leave me feeling a tad helpless at times, but, hey, at least he’s talking.

How do the two of you define your roles? And how do you make sure they’re not so unbalanced that you forget how to even it out when the other’s not there?

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